Dressed in a proper light blue dress, Lady Beth Vrolok walked with her chin lifted high out the side door of the sprawling Vrolok Manor House sitting within the outer walls of the monastery. She was set on speaking with her son Victor who was lounging in the gazebo with a glass of Cognac in hand. With graceful ease, she descended the stone steps that curved gently down the hills pitch until settling at the garden terrace, past the misty spray of the stone water fountain.
“Victor, do you have a minute?” Lady Beth said as she stepped into the shade of the gazebo, overlooking Castle Bay. Having lived at the manor for several decades—since the tender age of eighteen, when she married Lord Andrei—she still could not get over the breathtaking view from Monks Hill.
“Did you need something, Mother?” Victor glanced at the old Lady Beth and then sipped his brandy.
“Did you contact any nursing agencies about caring for your father?” Even though she was in her seventies, she looked more like her son’s sister than the senior years she was.
“Indeed I did,” he said, with a serious expression. He inhaled the fresh water air as if he were smelling the peach ice cream aroma of Jude the Obscure roses, only now preparing to open its soft apricot colored petals. “From our little town of Maryville, down below, to Traders Point Lighthouse at the other end of this small island, I’ve had people searching every one of its thirty miles. Of course, the people in the town below beneath us continue to be intent on spreading rumors about monsters that roam the village streets in the dark of the night. They are so superstitious; no one wants to come near here.”
Lady Beth sat on a bench across from her son and looked at the tall curtain walls—close to thirteen feet high—and the towers surrounding the outer ward where the manor sat. Then she turned and looked down the hill, over the curtain wall below, toward the harbor.
She had married into the Romanian Vrolok family, even though she had no blood ties to the people of the inner ward where the gothic cathedral, cloister, and other buildings were that she was forbidden to enter. Her husband, Lord Andrei, was allowed occasional admittance. Even Victor, the last in the New World’s bloodline, was refused to go where the monks lived. It would not be until her husband’s death that Victor would learn the secrets within the monastery’s fortified enclosure.
For now, Lord Andrei was the only one permitted to communicate with the mysterious monks—secretly—but now he was ill and needed nursing care. Currently, he had his right mind, but she feared the time was not far away when he would lose his mental capacity or, heaven forbid, pass on to a better place. If that were to happen, Victor would be required to perform the duties that Lord Andrei never spoke of.
“I hate to bring in someone from the mainland, but no one on the island is willing to work here.” She looked at Castle Moldovan. To her, it looked more like Mont Saint Michael in Normandy, than the monastery cathedral it once was.
“Who can blame them,” Victor said, standing up so that he could get a closer look at a three-masted frigate sailing into the harbor. “Looks like the monks are getting another shipment.”
“They’re not real monks,” Lady Beth said, watching men in black hooded robes, far down the face of the hill, moving crates on trolleys to and from the sailing vessel.
“Well, not in the Catholic sense of the word,” Victor scoffed. “But the men do live a solitary life away from mainstream society, getting their needs met by whatever comes and goes on those ships. I’m just pleased that they, at least, share some of the wealth with us . . . The gatekeepers.”
“Speaking of the monks,” Lady Beth said. “Has any of Count Moldovan’s representatives been around to talk to your father lately?”
“I saw a monk in his room earlier today, but as you know, I’m not privy as to what they speak about.”
“All I can say is that I’m glad they gave us permission to bring in an outsider to care for him. Old Ms. Reinhardt is having difficulty dressing him and helping him to the bathroom while still trying to keep up the cleaning and cooking.”
Victor laughed. “There’s too many old people in the house. Especially when I’m in my fifties and I’m the youngest. Having a nice-looking young nurse live here would be the shot in the arm this place needs.”
“Don’t get any ideas. You know they would prefer you find someone from the old country, not America. Speaking of that, I am surprised they didn’t send for someone from Romania to come out here and care for our Lord.”
“I guess they have their reasons,” Victor said, finishing the Cognac.